What the hell is OKR? Why is everyone suddenly talking about it?

Sounds like a framework or work methodology. In theory, OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. But wait, aren’t the two terms similar?

So I recently sat down with Ravi Paliwal, one of the founders of SPACE OKR to learn about his philosophy regarding building effortless OKRs. Ravi has always been a problem solver. He believed in cheerleading team-work and team goals, hence he has helped a number of people to set their objectives and achieve them.

At SPACE, his team’s mission is centered around productive work. Their mission is to help each team grow and guide them to go beyond the basics while implementing their objectives.

They are pretty passionate about the idea of purposeful work because they think there’s a profound opportunity to create more fulfilling and productive work environments for everyone.

While casually discussing the concept of OKR, Ravi once told me, “You know even my grandmother can easily create her OKR.” I was intrigued. I am happy I finally set aside some time to discuss this concept with him in detail. 

Lets dig in –

1. Why do you think any company should use OKR?

It is a straight answer: No goal-setting, no expectations of results. I will ask you two questions-

  1. Can you measure whether your team is rolling in the same direction as your organisation?
  2. Can you tell me that this particular team or department is seeking help?

I feel people and companies who built OKR concepts earlier were simply extraordinary.

Those extra-ordinaries were capable of handling businesses and matters.

I’ll share a case study from that time. 

The mission was to establish ISKCON temples all over the world and to promote the well-being of society by teaching the science of Krishna consciousness according to Bhagavad Gita, and other ancient scriptures.

The objective of Srila Prabhupada for building ISKCON TEMPLE was-

Obj1: To propagate spiritual knowledge to society at large and to educate all people in the techniques of spiritual life.

Obj2: To propagate a consciousness of Krishna (God).

Obj3: To bring all the people closer together for the purpose of teaching a simpler, more natural way of life.

The approach was ancient and traditional- Letter drafting for communication to investors, waiting numerous days for follow-up, seeking if they are into religious matters and helping to cope up. Collecting all the people and calling out for a “sabha” (a meeting) to discuss what to do next?

Hence, the mission statement was always there, but the approach to maintain it without OKR strategy must have been deviating and could not ask for much more transparency.

But in today’s time. To make the goals measurable we need something- there enters the OKR term.

2. It’s potentially self-defining to opt for OKR as a team. But can you walk me through the process? What feedback or suggestion would you like to give to a first time OKR builder?

OKR is not a defined process, it is completely a philosophy, so if you are a newbie and making OKRs for the very first time, I would suggest you to-

  1. Do a training program on OKR
  2. Onboard an OKR expert
  3. Do a specialised course

Otherwise, if you define a wrong objective for achieving your goals, you will be lost or deviated from your directions.

For example- If I say, I have to lose 10 kgs weight, my objective will be: to stay fit and lead a healthy life and for that my key result would be to lose 10 kg weight.

And for that my tasks would be –

  • I will do cycling 2 days a week
  • I will do swimming 2 days a week
  • I will do brisk walking 2 days a week

These will be my tasks, not key results. 

People often confuse key results with tasks and get stuck in the middle, that’s why they need a coach.

How to measure whether your weight is drifting off or you are leading toward getting fit?

If your objectives, key results and tasks are drafted or maintained clearly you will be able to measure that you went down from 10 to 9 on the scale of losing your weight.

If you are still not achieving your goal, then either there is some problem with your task or you have created the wrong objective.

3. When do you believe the churn of activities and tasks should stop? How do you know when you’re done and it’s time to change the status as MISSION ACCOMPLISHED?

Your key results should be measurable with some numerical figures.

There are three things to measure your mission statement:

  1. Numbers
  2. Percentage
  3. Yes or No

You cannot make such KRs that are not measurable- either say I will cycle 10 km daily, or walk 5 km daily.

There is one other way that is not included in the OKR course or framework but some days it works.

A kind of a OKR evolution called “feedback”.

To understand the performance cycle and measure if you are doing it in the right manner.

Feedback helps, and it is the future of OKR, as far as I believe.

4. If not SPACE OKR, which other OKR software would you suggest?

Use any other software that promises to be super fast, but at only one condition, it should be fast for real.
And secondly, any tool that has a zero learning curve, otherwise it will take many training sessions for your team to learn the algorithm and working model of the tool.

SPACE-OKR claims to be 10x faster than spreadsheets for building your OKRs and it is so simple even a non-professional can easily learn it. 

5. What if the goal is to help the world become a better place or maybe to build a forest or promote simple living? Will the OKR theory be applicable there?

OKR theory is the only theory that helps to define change and make the world a better place. There is no other way, I can assure you. 

There is no other way to show that change is being held. If I am a single person in a team, I may do it on a pen and paper but when I am working with more than 100 people for the same objective and goal, how will I make sure the work towards the goals is being done?

6. For a company, when is the right time to work on a mission statement and to spend time writing down their OKRs?

The day you register your company is the day you should create your OKR. Also, an OKR is not a time-consuming process, unlike popular opinion. OKR is the easiest process. I can make my own OKR in 2 minutes. There is nothing to be scared about.
Here only execution matters – what do you want to do? And how you are going to measure it. If that’s happening, you are on the right path to OKR.